I Am a Camera

Observance isn’t necessarily confined to Sundays. 

Peugeot 408, Marbella – May 2023. All images: The author

What is a fella to do? You’re innocently making your way to the supermarket, or back from the beach and without warning, you’re confronted with what can only be described as a ‘photo opportunity’. Of course, there is only one course of action worth pursuing, especially if you’re overseeing a site like this one, and that is to stop in your tracks, extract your camera phone and in as nonchalant a fashion as can be contrived, attempt to capture the moment — or in the cases herein, the vehicle in question.

The Peugeot 408 is recent enough a debutant to remain an uncommon sight around here[1] (and I doubt it’s all that cheap either). The only example I had viewed prior to this was (and remains) on a plinth outside the nearby Peugeot dealer, where the local seagulls appear to enjoy using it as target practice. I have developed a rule about photographing dealer demonstrators[2] which is to dismiss them as being too easy — or simply too seagull impacted — it’s a 50:50 proposition. Better by far to capture something in the wild, rather than stuffed and mounted.

Anyway, back to the car. I’m more than a little ambivalent about this new generation of raised height fastback saloon-coupé confections, I’m forced to admit. While on one hand, it’s a relief to see something which is not another mind-numbingly derivative crossover CUV, I feel that carmakers ought to have the courage of their convictions a little more. But easy for me to say. The jury remains out — both on the 408 itself and the concept which underpins it.

I know, I know. We have already spoken about this one at length, but the example above caught my eye for a specific reason. The Citroen C5 X is of course a cheval of a similar stripe to its Sochaux Stellantis-mate and suffers a similar issue of stance, as discussed. However, this example, unlike the one previously plucked and roasted features a contrasting black roof, which does do something to leaven the sense of height. Whether it’s successful, I leave for you to decide.

Marbella is a town of contrasts, with a notable subset of high net worth individuals both abiding and passing through. This, coupled to the proximity of that bastion of nauseating over-consumption just down the coast at Puerto Banús means that the ‘flash motor’ quotient is higher than it might otherwise be. Normally, these hyper-vehicles do little for me — while I would walk over burning sands to capture a Citroën C15 van (and dear reader, I have), but I think it was the colour of this 911 that appealed to me — well, that and the innumerable attempts to capture an arresting image through a nearby plate glass window. Well, it was Sunday and I’m confident the locals found it amusing.

No, I don’t think so either, but it was the best of several abortive attempts.

The 911 itself? I think it said GTS — or something, somewhere. I’m unable to keep up with this car and its seemingly endless permutations. Or much care for that matter. I just liked the way the colour glowed in the sunlight.

Speaking of glowing: Fiat 500s litter the streets here, and despite their ubiquity, they remain a pleasing sight. I think the reason I enjoy them is that Roberto Giolito’s design is just so well executed that what could have been a bloated parody has instead developed an identity entirely its own. They also seem to just really suit a lot of people’s lives here, in a way that they wouldn’t in say — I don’t know — Cahersiveen perhaps?

What I have yet to see in any sizeable number is its electric equivalent. EVs in general have yet to really catch on down here on the Costa del Sol — Teslas apart, inevitably — so this 500e was an unusual sighting. I think FIAT’s design team have done a fine job of enlarging the 500 design — always a risk — while maintaining its sense of compactness and charm. But hold on, what’s this? And they’ve only done it only one side as well, Giorgetto. This is the even rarer 3+1 version with the world’s smallest coach door. But before you split your sides in helpless derision, consider how you might bless FIAT’s designers if you were struggling to insert an infant into a rear child seat — or similar. Marks then, for effort.

Which I am not confident I can say about the next vehicle. DS Auto remains an unfathomable mystery. Not only pointless, but unless they do well in the home nation, I cannot for the life of me understand who is buying, leasing or otherwise purloining them. This current DS4 is a car which has as yet evaded the DTW gaze. We can remedy that today. It’s a handsome enough device I suppose, if in a somewhat generic manner. Shades of this, reflections of that — it’s everything and it’s nothing, all at once.

You eyes do not deceive – this is a different car.

I considered the rear end to be particularly striking. The busy confluence of feature lines, creases and strakes is very 2023, isn’t it? But I’m not sure how relevant now will be in 24 month’s time. Not much visibility out of that rear screen either — no wonder they’ll shortly be doing away with them entirely. I also thought the contrast with the adjacent C-HR to be quite apt. They do all this so much better at Toyota City.

Remaining with planet-Stellantis, I have little to say about this Peugeot 208. A lot of people don’t particularly care for this design[3] — although it’s very popular here — but what caught my gaze was this eye-catching shade of yellow. Of course the setting helps — how could it not, but when I see examples around town in this colour (and there are quite a few), my soul sings.

This last one is fairly self-explanatory. Two generations of Golf — the Mark VII and Mark VIII, vividly illustrating the malaise which periodically seeps out of the Mittelandkanal into Wolfsburg’s design studio and out into the public sphere. Seen alongside its far more accomplished looking predecessor, this current Golf really is a poor show. Dr. Piëch would not have tolerated such ineptitude. Nor should his successors.

[1] I’m unclear as to whether they have made it West of the French coast in RHD form as yet.

[2] A rule that I made up this trip in order to make matters more interesting/ difficult.

[3] Despite breaking several deeply held design rules, I find the 208 a bit of a guilty pleasure. I said that out loud, didn’t I?

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

35 thoughts on “I Am a Camera”

  1. Good morning Eóin! You have found some interesting targets for your camera. It’s so nice to see photographs of cars basking in the sunshine, while here the currawongs have come down from the mountains already, harbingers of a harsh (for Australia) winter. Although the heater is set for 18C, over here by the door I am shivering. The sound of the wind doesn’t help matters.
    I do like the colour on the 408 and especially the 208. The Fiat is an interesting shade of pink, so pale as to be almost a slightly tinted silver. Nice and subtle: I wonder whether we will see more of these subtle metallics as a precursor to the return of colour? As that currawong outside my window…..
    I do hope when it comes time to facelift the DS4, they find enough money in the till to afford the poor things some new door skins. It must the sheet metal terribly, whacking all those extraneous creases in it….

    1. I had to look up currawong. Crikey, some harbinger:

      According to Wikipedia, they’re only very distantly related to ravens. I initially thought you meant an Australian wind. Which immediately opened hypothetical possibilities for a Volkswagen Currawong (or maybe Maserati, but that seems less likely), given their preference for wind-related names. Except that they – unlike Renault, much to the delight of school kids everywhere – had the good sense not to literally name a car “Wind”…

      I wish you the best for the cold season, Peter. Spring may be slow in coming on this side of the world, but at least we get to look forward to warmer temperatures. Right now, though, 18C is about the average inside my house as well.

  2. Hi Eóin. DS cars seem to be a bit of a thing here in Greece. Especially in the posh suburbs of Athens. The DS4 doesn’t look too bad, to be honest. As for the 408, I’ve never seen one in the metal yet. I’ll have to make a note to self to check it out at some point.

  3. Regarding the DS4 from behind, every shutline seem to be different and not really precisely executed. The shutline of the tailgate seems to be simply too wide.

    But in general i like the way Stellantis is cooking different meals with the same ingredients. DS is a very french way of creating luxury – always at the edge to be useless. I like it.

    The yellow 208 is a entry level car – the yellow is the standard gratuitous colour of the 208. Fine that this 208 still looks nice and not cheap.

    The idea of Stellantis to offer a nice colour as standard is a very friendly idea for people (like me) which do not want to see nothing but grey, black or white cars. The new Astra comes in a fantastic yellow, the DS4 in gold, the 2008 in a copper-red as a standard colour etc.

  4. The comparison between Stellantis and Toyota is one of my favourite themes in terms of new cars design.
    (Because VW, Mercedes or BMW are living in their own design bubble).

    The 408 and the C5X are for sure no game changers for Peugeot and Citroen. Who would prefer a 408 to a 508?

    And who would prefer the C5x when the new Toyota Crown is an option ?

    1. Not a fan of the C5X but there are many things I would prefer to the new Crown. Including some diseases.

  5. Great article Eóin. I also love doing these sort of musings while I walk, but alas, I lack your writing eloquence.

    Picture 1: I like the Peugeot 408 but as you pointed out, they’re not so common on the streets. Same with its smaller sibling the 308 (although you do see these more). I guess they’re just becoming too expensive.

    Picture 2: Like I said here a few days ago, the C5 X looks better in pictures and up close. From a distance, they look slightly odd: flat, wide and high off the ground. I prefer the 408.

    Pictures 3 and 4: The Porsche in that colour is certainly a relief from all that flat grey, “asphalt tone”, so common these days on sports cars. I have the same problem as you when it comes to all those 911 variants. In fact, it’s almost impossible nowadays to spot a modern 911 that isn’t some variant.

    Picture 5 and 6: Thankfully Fiat managed (just) to keep a sufficient amount of the cuteness factor of the 500 when they designed the electric version. The interior, on the other hand, is completely on the cool and sophisticated side, instead of being colorful and fun, like that of the regular 500. The e500 colours are much more grown up and expensive looking than those of the 500, which add to their more grown up feel.

    Pictures 7 and 8: I want to like the DS 4, but its appeal to me depends too much on colour. In that ubiquitous metallic dark grey it’s just another SUV/Crossover/Coupe thing. In any case, the 408 in a bright metallic red or blue would probably be my final choice if I were deciding between the two.

    Picture 9: The current 208 is nice and interesting and comes in really bright colours, which is a wonderful rarity nowadays. In fact, that pearl-effect mustard yellow is the only standard no cost colour (at least in Spain), which is surprising and part of the reason you see so many of them in that colour.

    Picture 10: I quite like the Mk8 Golf actually, but when it came out it took me a while to learn to spot the details that make it different from the Mk7 (basically the shape of the rear lights and the drooping front end).

    1. The purpose of the many versions of the 911 is to give magazines a reason to have a 911 on the title of every issue.
      That way the 997 ended with 53 variants if I remember correctly.

      Poor journalists then have to make fools of their readers by pretending that a car that’s lowered by another half nanometre and has a matte instead of shiny black air extractor in the bonnet is completely different to drive from the version without these details.

    2. DaveAR: “the ultimate 911” can be written on a car magazine title 12 months of the year. There is also the fact that writing “911” on a cover increases sales. So, for Porsche and the magazines it´s a win-win situation.
      “Hendrey Brannose on the new Porsche 911 GT-RvE Rallye: If January´s 911 GT-RVi Ralleigh was too much for you and February´s Porche 911 GTR- Vi Rallysport a little too little, this month´s new 911 GT-RvE Rallye might just float your boat. This version is aimed squarely at anyone who might be tempted by Wolseley´s 46/18 GTR-Pro as the spec meets and exceeds Wolseley´s already tempting allure. If you don´t need an electric glove box openeer and 132 mm discs are okay (down 1mm on the standard 911 GR-R Ultra Rally Turbo i) then…. et cetera et cetera.” Porsche cleverly sell every variant as a stand-alone model instead of one model with variants and little badge. It´s as if there were 15 Renault Meganes instread of one Renault Megane with 15 major option packs to choose from.

    3. I wonder if the Golf reached the ‘Biro design level’: They make very minor design adjustments from time to time but, fundamentally, they already reached the peak of its possible design development

  6. Thanks Eóin, for posting some more local colour. The jacked-up saloon leaves me entirely cold. I don’t even find it offensive (unlike the crossover/crossover coupé), it just doesn’t register with me as something to form an opinion about.

    It strikes me that Citroën/Stellantis has transferred the strategy used on the last C5 (without X):

    namely to give it Teutonic proportions and overall flavour, but with some quirkiness meant to denote frenchness in the details to the DS design brief (if I’m being glib: “Teutonic with extra squiggles”). Particularly the DS7 has quite a bit of Audi to it (as well as Lexus and Infiniti, at a glance), sprinkled with some triangular dust, and quite a lot of logos as well (now what does that remind me of):

    1. Funnily enough, it seems the quasi-Teutonic pretenses didn’t evade most people’s eyes. I even remember someone calling the last-generation C5 “the best-looking Audi.”

    2. To be fair, they advertised it a lot in those days.

      Not so much with DS which, as far as I can tell, wants to be a French Lancia. I hope I don’t open Pandora’s Box with that statement…

  7. Having just returned from the Balearics I had a chance to examine a couple of examples of the electric Fiat 500 close up.

    Unlike Eóin, I don’t much care for it. I find it heavy-handed and lacking the finesse of its predecessor. Perhaps this is inevitable given the requirement to accommodate the heavy battery pack. It’s the Foie Gras Fiat.

    I also find it a bit gimmicky. For example, the little badge underneath the rear three-quarter windows that breaks up the line of the lower DLO is really annoying.

  8. Dublin is definitely west of France and I spotted two different 408s in traffic yesterday. Actually I find the 408 and its Stellantis siblings give me hope: the coupé/SUV crossover niche may yet yield a vehicle about this height of an original Focus and the nice friendly H-point that implies*. In other words, and actual car, just a little taller. If it has to look overly aggressive – well, I’d rather it didn’t, but it’s still way better than a Maybach!

    * Ignore the motoring journalists who seem to believe the only way to drive a car is with your rear end resting almost on the floor. What you really want is to sit high in a vehicle with the mechanical masses set low.

    1. One of the possibly appealing features of the C5 Mk1 was its upright driving position. I used to set my XM´s seats to this mode. Ditto the 406. I feel better able to see what I am doing in the car than when I´m below the windows and looking up at the sky.

    2. I prefer to sit in a car with my legs pointing forward instead of hanging down and I prefer to push against the pedals instead of stepping on them from above.
      And despite of this I still can look out of my barchetta much better than of anything with a bus like seating position.

    3. Hello Michael
      I like to seat close to the ground because my senses tell me I’m going faster.
      Thus, when I drive around town doing 25mph, it feels like 40!
      Fantastic, isn’t it? 😉

    4. As far as driving positions go I’d like to sit low in the car, relative to the windscreen. When you sit high you can see what’s going on in front of the car clearly, but can’t see as far ahead as a low position. I like the backrest relatively upright. Ideally legs and arms shouldn’t be straight when you tension your muscles. Right before a crash you tend to tension your muscles and when they are straight your joints are going to suffer a lot more from the impact.

  9. Eóin

    I’m sure you will be delighted to know that the 408 is alive, well and on sale near me in this RHD market.

    1. DP/Michael: Thanks for the clarification. I don’t get out a lot while in Cork, so I wasn’t sure.

  10. Good afternoon Eóin, and well done on your spotting and photographing. The 911 is, I think, in Guards Red, a classic Porsche colour that has featured on their cars for decades. My Boxster is in that colour and does look slightly ‘blood orange’ is strong sunlight, like the 911.

    Regarding the 500e, I think it’s fine, but loses something in cuteness over its predecessor. The ‘coach’ door may be practical, but I couldn’t live with that shut-line.

    I cannot mention the 208 with making reference to the misaligned door handles, so I won’t(!)

    1. From a Porsche club website:

      Guards Red
      German/Reference name: indischrot
      Paint codes: 84A,027,80K,M3A,LM3A,L80K
      Models and Years:
      718 Boxster:2017-2021
      718 Cayman:2017-2021
      It’s hard to overstate just how much history a Porsche wearing Guards Red is representing. Guards Red is a beautiful color that has the exceptional distinction of near-continuous usage with Porsche for over 45 years (!) This is a color that’s graced the bodies of the most incredible Porsches over these decades as well. But lets go back to the beginning. Guards Red, then carrying the English name India Red, was one of 15 colors worn by the legendary 1973-74 911 IROC RSRs. While we’ll talk about the significance of that elsewhere, just know that Guards Red was a “chosen color” born for a historic 911. And for that reason alone, Guards Red could have disappeared after 1974 and still been considered a historic color. But that was only the start of Guards Red’s incredible life. Since then, Guards Red has been worn by all of the classics – from 911s over the years to the 959, Carrera GT, 918 Spyder, GT cars of basically every type, and more. It’s been seen on numerous TV shows, movies, in books, and on posters for generations. Guards Red 911s have even been featured on National Geographic(!). Guards Red has gone by a couple names over the years including “India Red”, but all along it’s also been known by its German name, “Indischrot”. Guards Red, one of the automotive industry’s finest and most classic reds, is a legendary color.

    2. How well does it resist fading/oxidation, though? Sadly that seems to afflict a lot of modern red paint compounds!

    3. Hi Michael. Yes, reds are particularly susceptible to fading under UV light. My Boxster is nine years old but, until recently, has aways been garaged when not in use, so the paintwork still looks like new.

      The qualification is that, since moving to our new home in Ireland last November, it has had to sit outside in all weathers while we’re awaiting planning permission to build a garage. I’m afraid it looks a bit neglected at present, covered in a liberal smattering of road dirt and bird poo.

    4. Isn’t the 911 in Lava Orange? Guards red seems to be a little darker in tone. Lava Orange is a weird in the sense that it looks either red or orange depending on the circumstances.

      Whatever the color is, it works well against the white wall in Eóin’s photograph. not sure if it would work in other environments as well.

  11. Dave,

    Was ‘guards red’ originally one of porche’s ‘safety colors’?

  12. I quite like the 408, having seen examples a couple of times on the road. The concept is inherently odd, but I think they have done quite well with it.

    There is, though, something not right to my eyes with the DS4, a mix of long flat surfaces (the bonnet, for example), and pinched featurelines; it’s a look which does not cohere.

    The 500e is let down by the details; that awful badge on the nose, the convoluted rear lamps and the notch along the lower edge of the DLO. I prefer its predecessor, which still looks good after what must be 15 years but now – although the facelift did it no favours (it’s a FIAT after all).

    1. BTW, I like the short extra side door down the one side, it’s a small but well thought about additional practical touch for those needing easier access to the rear.

    2. I think one of the great achievements of the 500e’s predecessor is that it managed to look cute and non-aggressive without appearing overtly feminine. It has universal style and appeal. It’s pretty much the only retro design I like.

    3. Joel: To clarify, the combustion-engined 500 remains on sale in most markets alongside its larger EV equivalent. It is now sold only as a ‘mild-hybrid’, and certainly by what I see around here, its popularity remains wholly undimmed. The only aspect that would mark it down for me is that it’s just a little too cramped inside. Like the R50 MINI, it’s really a two-seater. But in terms of charm, it has that in abundance.

  13. The beauty is on it’s fuctionality.
    I miss a lot the rx8 and the first mini clubman for their similar layout

  14. Vw golf n.7 is the best after vw golf n.4. Please bear some patience with the 8, for me it was inevitable doing worse.

  15. I do not understand the fondness for – and popularity of – the Toyota C-HR.

    I’ve had the misfortune to be a passenger in the back of one and it is utterly horrid – an entirely black coal hole, fashioned in cheap, sweaty plastics. The rear door windows were too small for me, and I am relatively tall – any poor child strapped into the back will be trapped in a dark, claustrophobic hell.

    If it were a sports car with +2 seating, this would be forgiveable. But it is not. Please, buy a GR86 instead. Or, if you need proper back seats, something else entirely.

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